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Deep-dive review: Windows 10 -- worth the wait

Preston Gralla | July 28, 2015
Finally, an operating system from Microsoft you can love.

Continuum worked for me without a hitch, switching every time I unplugged a keyboard from my Surface tablet, or plugged the keyboard back in.

Tablet mode offers much the same Start screen interface that many Windows 8 users, including me, have come to hate: Big tiles representing the apps you want to run. It's ideal for tablets, though. And although most of the changes Microsoft has made in Windows 10 have to do with the desktop, the company has also made some improvements to the tablet interface.

Gone is Windows 8's kludgy Charms bar with links for sharing, settings, devices, moving to the Start screen and searching. Of all those links, the only truly useful one was for searching -- and in Windows 10, you search in tablet mode by tapping the Cortana search button at the bottom left of the screen. (For more about Cortana, head to the next section of this article.)

I won't miss the Charms bar. I think that few people will.

There have been other changes as well. There's now what some people call a "hamburger menu" at the top left of the screen -- three horizontal stacked lines. In a way, it's a mini-Start menu for tablets: Tap it and you get a menu that lists your most-used and most recently added apps; it also contains links to File Explorer, Settings, the Power button and all your apps.

I'm a big fan. There's no longer any need to scroll and hunt through the Start screen for apps I frequently run. Instead, they're easily available from the menu. And you can run desktop apps from this menu, not just Windows apps. It's one more way in which Windows 10 now works as a unified operating system.

At the bottom left of the Start screen there's another menu icon that looks like a bulleted list. Tap it to see a list of all of your apps, including desktop apps and built-in Windows apps such as Settings.

Also new is that the Taskbar runs at the bottom of the screen in tablet mode -- the same Taskbar that is on the desktop. Although I risk sounding like a broken record, it's one more way that Windows 10 feels like a single interface spanning two modes, rather than two operating systems uneasily joined together.

Cortana

I'm not much of a fan of iPhone's Siri digital assistant or Google's Google Now -- I tried them briefly and found them only moderately helpful. They sometimes felt more like parlor tricks than practical features I could use throughout the day. So I didn't think I'd be happy with Cortana.

I was wrong. Cortana is more than a mildly useful appendage to Windows 10. It's embedded deeply into the operating system. The more you use it, the more useful it becomes, because it learns about you over time. Not that it's perfect, because it makes errors along the way and there are some important things it can't do.

 

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